Yesterday Grace, Whit and I went back to Storyland. Our first visit was nothing short of magical and I wanted to experience that again. I am determined to jam this summer that I’m not working full of memories for the children. I’m anxious about what reality will look like once I go back to work, and I realize this may be a once-in-a-lifetime chance. To that end, I just made plans to take them both to Legoland (yes, in San Diego, ie almost as far as you can get from Boston within the continental US) for three days in early August. I don’t know if I’m insane. After Whit melted down at Chili’s tonight I was convinced I was. But once I caught a glimpse of his angelic sleeping face in the rearview mirror, I decided again that it was a good idea. Stay tuned.
They had another marvelous day at Storyland. We left an hour earlier than planned because it started pouring. As I pulled out of the parking lot I felt a pang of real sadness, surprised by how unhappy I was that this much-anticipated visit was over. I don’t know when we will be back, if I’ll be able to just take them here on the spur of the moment next summer, or even what next week holds.
As we sat in traffic in North Conway, the kids descended into their annoying and predictable bickering. Whit snapped at Grace, “I don’t like you, Grace. Not at all.” She surprised me by saying to him, calmly, “Whit, I know you don’t mean that. I know you care a lot about me.” Conversation closed. She turned and looked out of her window, ignoring him for a while.
After a dinner pitstop at Chili’s we drove the last hour to Boston. Whit fell asleep clutching the threadbare and treasured animal that he’s taken to calling his Beloved Monkey, a name that for some reason charms me. Grace was tired but not asleep, gazing out into the evening. It was simply a beautiful night, everything soft around the edges, the world draped in the faint pink haze of sunset. “Grace?” I spoke into the quiet stillness that had settled over the car. She nodded, caught my eye in the mirror. “I thought what you said earlier about knowing Whit loves you even when he said otherwise was really smart. Try to remember that in life. People say a lot of things they don’t mean.”
“Yes. I think sometimes people say things because they are tired, and cranky, and angry.” She lapsed into silence again and my breath caught in my throat at my daughter’s wisdom. May she hold onto this particular piece of it; I know I for one could use the reminder on an almost daily basis.
The song “These Are Days” came on the radio and about halfway through I realized I was singing along under my breath.
These are days you’ll remember …
Never before or never since, I promise,
will the whole world be warm as this.
I was startled to feel tears rolling down my face. These familiar roads, this beautiful city that I love, on the horizon, wreathed in pale pink fog, these sleepy children, these days passing faster than I can bear. Yet again of the loss that limns every single minute of my life lurched up into the foreground. My heart is so full of aches and fears right now, of feelings so big they threaten to overwhelm me. No matter how determined or desperate I am to make this summer full of warmth for Grace and Whit, of memories and joy, it will end. There is nothing I can do to change that. The keening anguish of this fact is sometimes truly more than I can bear.
I noticed that the license plate on the car in front of me was BEACON. Yes. This is my beacon, there is no question: remembering that this is all I have brings me back, over and over again, to right now. I drove through the beautiful dusk, feeling again the haunting awareness of how fleeting it all is, acknowledging reluctantly the unavoidable truth that my grasping at moments just makes them run through my fingers more quickly. Following my beacon, my eyes dazzled by the deep summer blue sky smudged with faint pink and gray clouds, and light glowing from below the horizon, I drove my children home.